Over one half million hydrogen powered vehicles could be on UK roads by 2030.

This is according to UKH2Mobility project, a joint British government-industry study published earlier this week.

The forecast is made in an interim report commissioned to evaluate the benefits of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and ensure the UK is well positioned for their commercial rollout.

The UKH2Mobility project brings together leading businesses from the automotive, energy, infrastructure and retail sectors with Government. The project’s study provides a “roadmap” for the introduction of vehicles and hydrogen refueling infrastructure in the UK.

“The transition to ultra-low emission vehicles has already begun,” said Business Minister Michael Fallon. “It has the potential to create really significant new economic opportunities for the UK, to diversify national energy supply and to decarbonizes road transport. The findings released today demonstrate that hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles can make a significant contribution to this. Successful commercialization of the technology will require Government to work in true partnership with industry. Our international rivals are looking to steal a march in this area and so UKH2Mobility recognizes the importance of prompt action to ensure the potential benefits are realized by businesses and consumers in the UK.”

As published in a UKH2Mobility project press release, the key findings are:

  • Consumer – up to 10 percent of new car customers will be receptive to fuel cell vehicles when first introduced, attracted by the newness of the technology and environmental considerations. “Early adopter” interest will need to be fostered and converted into sales to build confidence in and support for FCEVs, as the first models become available in world markets within the next three years.
  • Vehicles – initial uptake of FCEVs will progress as models make their way on to the market and the fuelling network matures. The roadmap shows that once mass FCEV production is established, bringing costs down, there is the potential for 1.6 million vehicles on UK roads by 2030, with annual sales of more than 300,000.
  • Infrastructure – a coordinated network of hydrogen refueling stations will need to be established, focusing at first on national trunk routes and heavily populated areas. An initial rollout of 65 stations would provide sufficient coverage in line with early vehicle sales, with the network growing in line with the number of FCEVs on the road to provide 1,150 sites by 2030.
  • Environment – the roadmap shows that, based on the uptake figures above, FCEVs could reduce UK annual total vehicle CO2 emissions by three million tones in 2030. Replacing diesel vehicles with FCEVs could also save between £100 million and £200 million a year in the cost of damage to air quality caused by vehicle emissions by 2050.
  • Fuel production – FCEVs produce no harmful tailpipe emissions, but some forms of hydrogen production do generate CO2. Using a range of manufacturing methods can deliver hydrogen at a cost that is competitive with diesel, with 60 percent lower CO2 emissions in 2020, improving to 75 percent less in 2030. Hydrogen production will be on course for zero emissions by 2050, at which time FCEVs could have a market share of between 30 to 50 percent.
  • Investment – a basic initial network of Hydrogen Refueling Stations is required to encourage early adoption of FCEVs and there will inevitably be a lag between the creation of this network and there being sufficient FCEVs on the road to make it financially self-sustaining. Phase 1 of the project estimated the total finance needed to be around £400m to 2030. Phase 2 will be focused on both reducing this figure and considering different models for delivering it.

The final report of Phase 1 is due to be published this March.

UKH2Mobility project said Phase 2 of UKH2Mobility will then use the information and roadmap produced in Phase 1 to develop a detailed business case and specific actions for participants to commit to.